Choosing a 6.5mm Hunting Rifle
By Chuck Hawks
So you've read my articles about 6.5mm cartridges, and maybe some other material, and you're convinced. You've developed a burning desire for a 6.5mm hunting rifle.
That is exactly the situation in which I found myself and which inspired me to write this piece. I recently came into possession of a Mauser Model 1896 Swedish Army rifle, and I enjoyed shooting it so much that I decided I had to have a modern 6.5mm hunting rifle. (You know how it is, I hope!)
Of course, there are a number of excellent 6.5mm (.26 caliber) hunting cartridges, ranging from the mild 6.5x54 MS to the powerful .264 Winchester Magnum. Inbetween are the .260 Rem., 6.5x55 SE, 6.5x57, 6.5mm Remington Magnum and 6.5x68 S. In the U.S., where I live, the reasonably available 6.5's are the .260 Rem., 6.5x55 SE, 6.5mm Rem. Mag. and .264 Win. Mag. Since I was looking for a moderate, general purpose cartridge, the 6.5mm Rem. and .264 Win. Magnums were out. That narrowed the cartridge choice down to the 6.5x55 and .260 Rem. Now the remaining problem is selecting the most appropriate brand and model of rifle.
I wanted my new rifle to be a general purpose rifle of medium size and weight (A 22" barrel and about 7 pounds w/o scope would be about right); a rifle that would be a pleasure to shoot at the range and in the field. I wanted a handsome, bolt action, production rifle. I was not interested in an economy model, and I could not afford an expensive custom built rifle. And I insist that my hunting rifles come with a checkered, wooden stock (either walnut or laminated). Your requirements may differ, but those were mine.
After a little research using the 2005 Shooter's Bible and the Internet I came up with the list of possible rifles you see below. Basic specifications, caliber, finish (barreled action/stock), barrel length, weight, and MSRP (if available) are included for each.
If you think along the same lines I do, perhaps this list will be of assistance. In any case, it illustrates one method of finding the rifle of your dreams, or at least some potential candidates.
Now we just have to hit the local gun shops and see which of the rifles(s) on our list fits us best and appeals to us in person. Then we can narrow down the list and ultimately make our final decision.
If the local dealer doesn't have our chosen caliber in stock, no problem, we can always special order exactly what we want. And don't forget to check the used rack while at the gun shop. You never know, you might get really lucky and find exactly the rifle you are looking for waiting there for you.
So, how did it all work out for me? I was able to inspect all of the rifles on my list except the Howa, Kimber and Sako. The Howa, although attractive, appears to be a special order only item through Wal-Mart, so I wasn't able to examine one. I figured the Kimber was too light, and the Sako cost more than I wanted to spend, so both were summarily eliminated from consideration. I eventually narrowed my list down to the Winchester Featherweight, Winchester Featherweight Stainless, and the Remington Mountain Rifles.
Then, in one of the local gun emporiums, I chanced to spot a brand new 6.5x55 Winchester Model 70 Featherweight with its price tag reduced by over $200 from the MRSP shown above. When I "casually" inquired I was told that particular rifle had been in stock for over a year and the shop was offering it below cost to get rid of it. It had a rather dark walnut stock without a lot of figure (which may be why it hadn't sold), but the price was right and I decided I could live with it. A quick credit card transaction and I went home clutching my new 6.5x55 rifle!
Copyright 2003, 2005 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.